Town’s Emirates FA Cup journey fell at the first leg after a disappointing defeat in the Third Round replay at Reading.
It all looked good for David Wagner’s men after they dominated the opening 25 minutes and took a well-deserved two goal lead, but a red card for Jonathan Hogg changed the game and Reading hit back hard to progress and face Walsall at home in the next round.
Down to ten men, Town didn’t find a way to gain any sort of possession after dominating the ball when it was 11 vs 11 and the hosts took full advantage, with Matej Vydra netting a hat-trick.
The first goal came through the first genuine attack of the game nine minutes in, with Jamie Paterson continuing his rich veins of form both in the Emirates FA Cup and against the Royals. Nahki Wells picked up the ball between the home midfield and defence and turned past a defender before Paterson took up possession, drove into the left side of the penalty area and smashed a left footed shot between goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and the near post.
The second goal soon followed – and it was a special moment for Tommy Smith. Town attacked down the left after some excellent hold-up play from Wells and Joe Lolley’s cross landed perfectly on the head of Emyr Huws; the midfielder’s effort struck the bar before Smith’s follow-up was saved, but the Terriers kept the ball alive and Smith eventually picked it up on the edge of the box before smashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner for his first professional goal in his 94th appearance.
Town continued to pile forwards and created two more great chances before the 25 minute mark. First Joe Lolley delivered a superb defence-splitting pass to find Wells’ arcing run, but the top scorer tried to round Al-Habsi and the big Omani ‘keeper got down well to smother the ball at his feet.
Next a superb bit of Wagner’s famed reaction pressure saw Town win the ball high up the pitch, resulting in another shot for Paterson from 20 yards. On this occasion, the goalkeeper got down to turn the ball around his left-hand post.
However, the game changed in the 26th minute. A long Reading ball forward was knocked down into striker Matej Vydra’s path, who skilfully skipped past Mark Hudson to break clear of the defence. Jonathan Hogg tried to get back and cover, but only succeeded in running across the heels of the opposing player and bringing him down on the edge of the Town box. Referee Oliver Langford wasted no time in producing the red card.
To rub salt into the wounds, Reading’s on-loan Chelsea midfielder Lucas Piazon stepped forward and sent a real wobbler of a free-kick past the stationary Joe Murphy from the resulting central free-kick to get Reading back within a goal.
Wagner immediately introduced Dean Whitehead to plug the midfield void – his first appearance in 10 games following his knee injury – but the game totally changed thereon in. Wagner reshuffled his pack to a narrow 4-4-1 as Reading began to dominate possession and stretch the width of the pitch, although the best they could do for the rest of the half was a wayward long range drive from midfielder Danny Williams.
Reading continued to make the running, but Town defended stoutly. However, without possession of any kind it did feel like a chance would eventually drop Reading’s way. The disappointing aspect was the way it did just before then hour mark.
Town finally managed to mount an attack and some great skill from Paterson by the corner flag won his side an attacking corner. Pato played it short with Davidson and got it back, but the move broke down in the area and Reading broke quickly through Ola John. The Royals flooded forward and got into the box before John shot and although Murphy clawed his first effort into the air, Vydra was unmarked as he acrobatically volleyed the rebound home from the penalty spot.
Things went from bad to worse for Town minutes later when Reading mounted another attack and substitute Ola John crossed low from the right, leaving Vydra with the easy task of tapping home from close range after getting across the near post.
Wells had a golden opportunity to get his side back level just moments after the restart after Huws clipped another delightful ball over the Reading defence to set the Bermudian clear in the area and although he lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper, he was unlucky to see it hit the face of the crossbar rather than drop into the unguarded net.
Joe Murphy kept the tie alive in the 69th minute, rushing from his line to narrow the angle and saving one-handed after Cooper’s ball over the top found Vydra’s bending run to send the striker clear.
As time progressed, Wagner brought Ishmael Miller on and allowed centre backs Lynch and Hudson to stay forward, but that only succeeded in affording Reading more opportunities; Murphy producing another top save to keep Robson-Kanu’s powerful low drive out.
In the end, it was easy for Reading to put Vydra clear in the final minute of normal time and the striker completed his hat-trick, with the ball looping over the stranded Murphy via a deflection off Martin Cranie’s outstretched leg.
It got worse in added time when substitute Alex Fernandez was afforded acres of space to drive into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Joe Murphy; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch, Mark Hudson (c), Tommy Smith; Emyr Huws, Jonathan Hogg; Joe Lolley (Dean Whitehead, 29 (Ishmael Miller, 75)), Jamie Paterson, Kyle Dempsey (Martin Cranie, 75); Nahki Wells
Lloyd Allinson, James Husband, Duane Holmes, Flo Bojaj